You are a man, my son!

There are some stories worth telling…this is one of them.

There are many things our kids do, that make us wonder if they have listened to anything we have tried to teach them in life. My son isn’t a 4.0 student, he’s an all around athlete but never made State. But I have never been more proud of him than I am this week.

This is the story of the Varsity Basketball player and the shy, forgotten girl.

A few weeks ago a girl at my son’s high school started an interesting conversation with him. She told Brock that there is a girl who wants to go to Prom, but has no one to take her and TOLD him he should take her. My son had his Prom last year and it wasn’t exactly a highlight of his high school life, he’s more interested in the three pointers he’s made than a dress up night out with a girl.  For some reason his interest was peaked and he asked more questions. That night, he came home and told me about the conversation. I immediately was touched by his giving the idea even a second thought and told him to ask his Dad what he thought. I usually tell my kids this as I am the emotional thinker and Randy is more practical minded. My emotions were stirred. I usually don’t think clearly when that happens.

It’s been almost a month since that initial conversation Brock had with his classmate. He would not let it go. For some reason he kept bringing it up and it was clear his mind was made up. Randy nor I prompted him one way or the other. My little boy has grown up into a young man of character and it was important that this was HIS decision.

This morning he went into the Special Education wing of the school and sought out a shy, dark haired young lady and asked her to Prom. She said ‘yes’ !

Tomorrow night my son, will dress up in his finest. He will not care if his classmates scoff or joke. He will give her a corsage, take her to dinner, take pictures with her and spend a short time at the Prom before taking her back home to her parents.

I am not writing this to glorify my son. I am writing it in hopes that it inspires others to be kind to people in their lives. In a time when the news tells of bullying and teen suicide…the answer is just so simple. Be kind. Be selfless. Not full of pity but respecting life in all it’s forms. Every girl deserves to go to Prom if she wants to.

I have never been more proud; that we raised a young man who sees the beauty in a simple gesture. I thank God for his life and believe this is just the first of many things he will do to change the world around him!

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Learning How to Die

The title of a Jon Foreman song that got me thinking about the meaning of his lyrics.

I know the scriptures that talk of the purging that happens in us when we go through trials.  I believe in my time of trial I am learning to die. I am not a quick learner I have discovered. One obstacle that keeps me from quick lessons is my never ending need to know “why?”. I am not sure where or how else I would have had this self realization but through the trial and not only going through it but doing it with  God’s silence.

My days are full of prayer: for others, for my family, my church, my community, my children, my husband, my desires, this world, for peace and love and so many things. I never run out of things to pray for. In my housecleaning; prayer is on my lips, in my quiet time of devotion; prayer is on my lips. Prayer is not my problem. Not having answers is my problem.

It is my hang up. My hurdle. That piece of my flesh, I am realizing, that is keeping me from a deeper faith.

I have always looked for God’s billboards (preferably with neon lights), His directions, His voice. I am a person who has always laid things out on the table for all to hear and see and discuss. I wear my heart on my sleeve and love clear, open communication. The analysist in me loves to dissect every meaning, nuance and motive. My face betrays me. My tone exposes my heart. When I cannot find the answers, I am discovering now, I am restless and peace hides from me.

There are a few things that weigh heavily on me at this time of my life. Things that might make a great book someday….things of great significance and one or two that are probably more just me “wanting to know”.

There are no billboards, no directions, no answers….and the silence is deafening. And I have to say my flesh hates it. I don’t say that word about many things but hate is a good word!  It’s the right fit for how I feel about the lack of answers.

So I am learning to die. Die to the “need to know”. Die to the impatience. Die to the answers for questions that are burdens…..and prayers.

There is no secret, there is no way to do this well or easily. Dying is inevitable. For the junk to be gone and the gold to be refined, the trials bring out the things that need to go.        This is a blessing.                                                                                                                                I will repeat that until I believe it! Until it’s a brand on my heart.  A good Valentine’s Day post I think; for this process speaks only of God’s love. May I live to represent Him well. Faith isn’t about following only when we know where we are going. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Even though I don’t know how long this process will be, how long the answers stay hid, how much I cry, how many prayers scream out into the silence…faith is in fact that none of those things should matter. He is still God. He is still on the throne.

Thanksgiving in all things….even in the dying.

[below is the link to Jon Foreman’s song]

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tribute to Todd Buffa

Green Bay. Most people associate that northern Wisconsin city with football and rightly so. But my Green Bay memories are of a different sort. For two years my blue-eyed girl and I drove the three hour farmland trail of highway 21 to a very different Green Bay. Tucked in a back room of a music store, the magic happened. From an hour to sometimes three;  Sydney met her match, her mentor, her teacher, her coach and most importantly her friend. An unlikely duo who exchanged stolen moments of the old Jazz era together.

This unexpected friendship started in the fall of Sydney’s junior year of high school. While attending a Jazz Festival the hands of God (some might say fate) took over. In a college school room a small framed, quirky clinician sat and listened to a couple of students perform their jazz standards for him. There was still time left on the clock so he asked the teacher “do you have anyone else?”. As Ms. Hanson had Sydney’s sheet music with her she encouraged Sydney to go…shyly and hesitantly she took the floor and started to sing and that was the moment everything changed. For the clinician, for me and most definitely for Sydney. There are moments in one’s life that are saved forever in a slideshow of what I like to call “forever memories” and that afternoon in that bare college classroom was one of them, for me. My mother’s heart ached with the confirmation that everything I had thought about my child was real. It wasn’t just my proud mother’s bias. It was hard to hold back tears as this strange man spoke words of life to my child’s spirit.

We left the room that day with a scribbled name and phone number and offer of free lessons. Well truth be told we left with a whole lot more than that. We just didn’t know it then. So the friendship began. Todd Buffa had entered our lives and we would never be the same. He plowed in with his larger than life personality and took over every corner of my shy, unassuming girl’s life. The worldly, experienced Jazz great and the quiet, beaten down Pastor’s daughter. Somewhere in God’s plan, He knew Sydney needed Todd. I would like to think He knew Todd needed Sydney as well.

Sitting in the corner of the tiny music lesson room, I would have the honor to experience Todd on keys as Sydney sang forth with her newly discovered voice. Those two laughed together and shared moments that only best friends dare to share. Something remarkable happened. He wasn’t just a voice teacher to my girl, he was someone she could call any time of day or night. When she was down, or needed advice, or needed to blow off steam about the petty drama of high school music groups. He was always there to listen, advise and refocus her heart. He used to tell me, “Sydney is the female version of me. I totally get her”. No truer words were spoken….

This man got together a few of his amazingly talented friends and convinced them to donate time to a good cause. Recording a jazz CD for a young up and comer. That is faith! They did it and after a few hours in a recording studio the results proved his confidence. What kind of man does that for someone? So passionate about his craft, so willing to give to the next generation. Another forever memory with Todd Buffa at the helm.

so now there is a huge void. I mean who can replace that kind of presence in one’s life? Last Friday the devastating news came that this amazing, talented, generous man left this world suddenly; without a proper goodbye. Without a proper thanks.

So please indulge me for a moment….

Todd, thank you is not enough for all the time and love you poured into my blue-eyed girl. The things you gave her are invaluable and will remain with her for her whole life. I know anytime she doubts herself all she has to do is go back to that Green Bay music store and just listen for your voice. The raspy, cough interrupted voice of her musical mentor. What you did for her is the stuff of dreams. The time you shared with her will resonate through her life and I pray one day she will do all those things you KNEW she could accomplish. I most of all thank you for being a maverick, an outside the box kind of person who doesn’t care what the status quo says or thinks. The kind of man who takes his own path and though I am sure some people thought you were crazy for giving free lessons to a young woman in high school you always followed that inner voice. She will be forever changed because you did. I know that Sydney will miss you to the point of heartache. I hope you are at peace dear friend.

My frail attempt to honor my daughter’s voice teacher. thanks for the forever memories Todd. Green Bay will always mean to me….possibility.

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Christmas reflections

silent night, Holy night....

another Christmas has come and gone so quickly. It seems that the weeks of December flow one into another with lists of things to do each day that engulf my hours. As I get older I desire so much for the time to slow down so I can treasure the moments, the meaning, the beauty of the season. But it seems the world can push those more meaningful parts of Christmas to the side.

I must force myself to stop. I look out in the living room from my place by the sink and see my children in the living room. All home for Christmas this year. It might not always be this way. Stop and treasure that for this year Jessica has flown back north from Florida and there she sits in all her beauty and radiance laughing. Stop. I find myself taking mental pictures.

My blue-eyed girl cuddled up in her robe looking so much a child but Marmy (that’s what she likes to call me) realizes she is growing up into a young woman and I am blessed she is home from College to enjoy the Christmas season with her family. I think one day it might not be this way, so I push back the lump in my throat that grows as I feel so blessed she is here now. I am almost standing between what is and what will be. Trying to force myself to live in the moment.

My son, seems more peaceful since they have returned home. He is next to leave the nest. Next year at this time I will be welcoming him in the door with bags of laundry and loads of stories of his college life.

Time keeps moving, and this Christmas season I stop. I look around. The grandparents with arms of gifts, the grandaughter enjoying her first Christmas looking like a doll in her red dress, the lights on the tree in the darkness of night are all pictures I have stored in my heart now.

Most of all I stop to remember that my Saviour was born…to a virgin mother, a lowly father…King of Kings come to earth. That is the truth and the center of this season that will remain dispite the changes that swirl about my middle aged life. Born to us, on this day a Saviour who is Christ the Lord!

our Christmas dolly

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Letter from Nonna

Dearest Elizabeth,
 Hello love, this is your Nonna. Every day since I found out God was creating you, fearfully and wonderfully I thanked Him for your life and prayed for you. What a gift you are to Grandpa and me.  Recently when the doctor told your Mommy and Daddy that you had to have a biopsy on your birthmark our hearts started to hurt a little bit. We immediately went to prayer. The results came back and the doctor said that you would need surgery as your birthmark was dangerous. I have to tell you it  was an unexpected result as I was sure it would be fine, how could a baby be born with Melanoma? (a fancy doctor word for skin cancer). Everything went quickly. The doctors were so good and took lots of pictures for their medical studies as I think they were just as surprised! Mommy and Daddy traveled with you and stayed with you every step of the way to your surgery on Friday, December 2nd, 2011.
One day when you look down at your leg and see that scar I want you to know a few things. I want you to know that immediately people began to pray. The country was covered from west coast (my cousin, Julie) to the east coast (my dear friend, Kimmy), from the north (our old church family in Hibbing, Minnesota) to the very south (Auntie Jessica in Florida). I want you to know there were many in Canada and even a Priest in a town in England where my Auntie Hazel lives was praying for you. It’s so important that you know that. You are only four months old now, but your little life inspired others to pray for your complete health and healing. Family and friends and even complete strangers knew the name of Elizabeth who needed prayer.
Another thing I want you to know! is that all that prayer WORKS. The doctor thought he’d have to do a skin graft, the marks made with his pen all over your tiny body showed the pattern for his plan. But once he started he decided it wasn’t necessary. This means you won’t need another surgery later in your life.  You recovered so remarkably well, as your parents stood by your side tirelessly and willingly. Daddy slept by your side that first night in the hospital after surgery. You were so brave and didn’t need the pain medicine they thought you would. You will never remember all this, so that’s why I’m writing it all down now.
 The scar you bear on your body is a testimony of God’s faithfulness to all generations. I read Psalm 112 a lot ever since I found out the doctor’s concern of skin cancer. My friend Mary told me it would help and she was right. So many people, were stirred in their hearts to help and pray and support and love on us during this time. I want you to know your little life  just started, inspired that. Look down and that scar and don’t dispise it. It is part of your story a really wonderful part. I pray now that God uses it as a tool for you to tell others about the God we serve. There were days of fear, concern, stress, worry, tears and then it all dissolved into faith. Faith that He would see you through.
We all carry scars my beautiful Elizabeth. Some people’s are visible (like yours will be) others are hidden inside. It’s not the scar that matters, it’s the story behind it and what we do with that story.
much love, today and always,

Nonna xxoo

Mommy holding you while you were still recovering at St. Mary's Hospital, Rochester, MN

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Christmas Traditions: part 1

In the last two years, I think it has really HIT me how much our family traditions have meant to my children and even my husband. As our house empties out and our grown children are going off into marriage, a job and college they express great excitement for the Christmas season. As a young mother having fun things to do at the holidays to make it special was one of my goals.  It’s very apparent how much of a lasting impact these things have made in my children’s lives. Traditions are a part of the fabric of our family and I believe have made lasting memories for them to cherish.

I am going to start a little series highlighting some of our simple but special traditions. Perhpas it will inspire some of you to start holiday traditions of your own. It’s never too late. I hope to continue these now I have my first Grandchild and maybe add some new ones just for the next generation.

Tradition #1

The Advent Calendar

I have my own Mum to thank for this Williamson family tradition as she would buy the calendars for my children when they were very young. As they got older I made sure they still had one each to start their December.

Advent calendars orginated in Germany in the 1800’s and made their way over to my country of birth, England later on. My British mother always had one in our home when I was a child and this is how the Advent Calendar became a part of our family’s Christmas tradition.  Nowadays you can find all sorts of “countdown to Christmas” methods in a calendar form, some even include a little chocolate treat behind each window. Personally I prefer the old Victorian style pictures with the paper windows counting down the days of December to Christmas Day. Just like the one on the left .

Sometimes it’s difficult to find traditional Advent Calendars here in Wisconsin where I live. But there is always the internet, or stores like “World Market” that carry imported goods from Europe. I would buy one for each of my four children, but buying one per household and letting the children take turns opening the windows is also an option. You just have to remember who’s turn it is to avoid the unwanted holiday tradition of “fighting over the opening of the windows” ….otherwise known as “this just isn’t fun anymore”.

Enjoy this glimpse into our European inspired holiday traditions.

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In Memory of…..

Oh I never like those words because when they are used it means that something is gone….

I met Brenda Emanuel back about ten years ago. She struck me as a strong woman. I wasn’t wrong. Once a week I would be entrusted to enter her home and clean for her while she worked a full time, business woman job in our town. I remember a lot about that cleaning job. My favorite room was supposed to be a dining room, but for Brenda it was a room that housed her beautiful grand piano. She loved music, she had a beautiful voice so I dusted the keys respectfully.

Honestly cleaning bathrooms is not my favorite thing, cleaning other people’s bathrooms is even less impressive. I would sometimes wonder why God had me doing this job. In time I learned why. It didn’t take me long to realize that God had in His plan for me to meet this inspiring woman.   As the weeks passed she and I became more than employer and  employee, we became friends, sharing early morning talks before she headed out the door.

Brenda loved her family more than anything. I was struck by her loyalty and full heart of love for them, displayed in picture frames on her walls and even more so in the way she lit up when she spoke of them. Such pride of her children and grandson. When her husband passed away suddenly I knew God’s purpose for our friendship was deeper than cleaning toilets. Even in those tough days she displayed her strength of character.

Brenda was a somewhat stoic business woman full of ideas and creativity. She was a Daddy’s girl and honored his memory by making sure the golf tournament held annually in his memory went off without a hitch. She loved NK Schools, her alma mater. She loved watching her treasured grandson play hockey. She approached everything in life with such energy, vigor, positivity, joy and wisdom.

When cancer came, she approached it the same way. The last time I saw Brenda, I stopped in on a visit back to the little town up north. She was so proud to show me her beautiful new home. I met her loving partner. Brenda, Mike and I walked around the house as she showed me all the plans she had for her garden. We sat in her kitchen and talked philisophically as we often did. I don’t want to presume but I believe Brenda and I connected on a deep spiritual level. Our spirits connected. That’s what made “us”special. Some girlfriends you shop with….some you sit over ice water and discuss life’s meaning.

Brenda would send email updates concerning her health over the past few years. Sometimes my heart would hurt reading the words of treatments and surgeries. But she faced it all with strength, grace, acceptance, positivity, joy and vigor. Why should I be surprised?

Yesterday I found out that she lost her battle to ovarian cancer on Sunday morning, peacefully giving way to death in her sleep. So glad to know that in the end there was peace for her.  Brenda is an amazing example of making the most of the days you are given.

 I will not forget you friend. The smell of Cocoa Chanel will always remind me of you. The plant you gave me from Tom’s funeral still thrives and is a constant reminder of the day God allowed me to clean your bathrooms….something so mundane that allowed our paths to cross.

I have often thought of this as a life lesson: sometimes undesireable, difficult times can actually have hidden gifts for us. I know that in a “job” of cleaning house I found a treasure. Now I pray you rest in peace, all suffering over…you’ve left your mark in the lives of many. I know that your footprint is etched in the pathway of my journey forever.

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